Written Answers. - Part-Time Job Opportunities Programme.

Brendan Kenneally

Ceist:

556 Mr. Kenneally asked the Minister for Social Welfare the reason an inequality exists in relation to the scheme run by the community of religious in Ireland known as the part-time job opportunities programme, whereby a married man loses all the benefits he has when going on the scheme, whereas a lone parent would lose only 20 per cent of his/her benefit; the plans, if any, he has to eliminate this inequality; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16885/96]

The part-time job opportunities programme is a pilot programme with 1,000 places out of the total provision of places for the community employment programme and operating as a sub-group within that programme.

Social Welfare legislation precludes any person from receiving an unemployment payment or signing for credits during any week in which he or she is employed under the part-time job opportunities programme. A person participating on the programme is deemed to be employed, and therefore does not meet the statutory conditions for receipt of unemployment payments.
The programme pays the "going rate for the job". A person on the pilot programme may also engage in other part-time work or activities outside of the time spent on the project. In addition, the personal allowance payable on the pilot programme is approximately £20 higher than that which obtains on an unemployment payment.
Eligibility conditions for lone parent's allowance payable to both men and women differ from those for unemployment payments. A person may continue to claim lone parent allowance while working, subject to a means assessment. There is no disqualification from receipt of lone parent allowance while participating on the pilot programme. This is in recognition of the special difficulties faced by a lone parent bringing up a child or children without the support of a spouse or partner, and the extra expenses incurred, such as child-minding expenses where there is no spouse or partner to mind the children when the parent is working.
The means test for lone parent's allowance allows for an earnings disregard of £24, travel expenses of up to £10, and childminding expenses of up to £30 per week for one child, which means that a lone parent may retain a part of the allowance while participating on the programme. Secondary benefits, such as fuel allowance and Christmas bonus are retained by both lone parent's allowance recipients and persons who were in receipt of an unemployment payment prior to participation in the part-time job opportunities programme.
Arrangements will be made for an independent evaluation of the programme to be carried out in 1997 when the pilot is due to finish.